#Article (Archive)

Anti-Tobacco Alliance, "Waste of time, a recipe for avoidable suffering"

Sep 19, 2008, 5:57 AM

Advocates from 22 countries around Africa recently concluded an anti-Tobacco conference in the Nigerian Capital of Abuja. The three-day conference, according to the Gambian delegate, Mr Sambujang Conteh a representative of the NGO-CSO Network on Tobacco Alliance, made a passionate call on African delegates due to embark on a World Health Organisation conference for the parties to the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, slated for November later this year, in Durban, South Africa.

In a communiqué issued at the end of African Regional Strategy meeting on Tobacco Control, under the aegis of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), the Abuja delegates described as "alarming" the spread of the tobacco epidemic in Africa. They urged tough measures on Tobacco, calling on member countries to adopt the strongest possible guidelines based on the dictates of Articles 5.3, 11, and 13 of the FCTC. The effect of Tobacco, the communiqué observed, 'is devastating on health, economy and environment of our continent.'

Article 5.3 of FCTC ensures protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. It states: "in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law."

Article 11 seeks to address the issue of packaging and labeling of tobacco products, warning against promoting a tobacco products by any means that are false, misleading, deceptive or likely to create erroneous impression about its health effects on smokers.

Article 13 makes case for a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship which, it hopes, would cut down on the consumption of tobacco products, among others.

The Abuja conference observed that there was a switch of the marketing strategies of the tobacco industry; from the more informed regions of the world to the African continent. To this effect, it called on all African governments that are yet to ratify the FCTC to do so immediately, urging a speedy action for domestication of the treaty for those who have already ratified it. "Any waste of time is recipe for avoidable suffering and tobacco-related deaths," they stressed.

In a display of renewed effort, the group also endorsed African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) as an umbrella body to harmonise the tobacco control efforts of non-governmental organisations in Africa.

The NGO-CSO network on Tobacco Control, The Gambia, is a composition of five formidable groups of 2 NGO's and 3 civil society organisations. The African Network for Information and Action Against Drugs (RAID - The Gambia) is one of the NGO's, and its director, Mr Sambujang Conteh, the chairperson of the Alliance, represented the country to the Abuja conference. Mr Conteh called for a "concerted effort" in the crusade of stemming the ills of tobacco consumption.